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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

The refugee crisis cannot be resolved with short-term fixes

Filippo Grandi challenged stereotypes and offered new ideas. The world must heed him

Of the 22.5 million refugees worldwide, only 162,000 were resettled last year. Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP
Of the 22.5 million refugees worldwide, only 162,000 were resettled last year. Louisa Gouliamaki / AFP

The phrase “refugee crisis” conjures up, particularly in the West, images of nations being swamped by masses of people. Politicians across Europe and America have profited by pushing this image. But it should really come as no surprise that the tropes about refugees and migrants bear little relevance to reality. As Filippo Grandi, the United Nations’ high commissioner for refugees, explains in an exclusive interview with The National’s editor-in-chief, Mina Al-Oraibi, the refugees and migrants who travel to the West constitute only a small part of the world’s 65.5 million displaced people.

US president Donald Trump is among leaders who have said that refugees should remain “in their home region”. But as Mr Grandi explained, this is already the case. “Ninety per cent of refugees only go as far as the country next to theirs”. The reason is because most refugees actually want to go home. Uganda, Jordan and Pakistan, for example, host vast populations fleeing conflicts in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan, respectively. But they should not have to bear alone what is rightly the world's collective responsibility. Mr Grandi stressed that he would like leaders such as Mr Trump to increase support to nations whose resources are being strained by the influx of refugees. And some refugees and migrants, in pursuit of a better life further afield, expose themselves to grave dangers by putting themselves in the hands of people smugglers. This, as Mr Grandi explained, can only be tackled with a comprehensive policy that creates avenues for legal movement.

Of the 22.5 million refugees worldwide, only 162,000 were resettled last year. This ought to shame the world. Mr Grandi has devised a plan that creates ways for every country, rich and poor, to play its part in alleviating the crisis. Short-term aid is indispensable, but a comprehensive solution calls for long-term rehabilitation through the provision of schooling and the opportunities to build lives. The world must back Mr Grandi’s plan.

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